The classic Narcissist type was a male Freudian analyst. They would sit behind their “patients” while making them divulge shaming thoughts and feelings they may have experienced as children. They would then “educate” their patients about what was really going on in their head. The analyst had the knowledge and insight. The patient was ignorant and unconscious of their own mental emotional processes. The “insights” generally boiled down to repressed sexual feelings for Mom or Dad. And if you didn’t buy it, obviously you’re an unsophisticated dufus.
Nowadays, Nacissitic therapists come in all shapes and sizes and theoretical orientations. They may be traumatologists or chi-id synergistic specialists or psychodynamically informed eclectic practitioners or anything in between. The common thread is, the therapist is the source of knowledge and insight. There is often a distinctly paternalistic quality to the person or the relationship. The therapist has special inside knowledge about what makes the client tick (regardless of theoretical frame—special inside knowledge may derive from beliefs about childhood trauma or beliefs about chemical imbalance, or any of the other myriad theories and wacky beliefs floating around out there). Alternatively, the therapist may offer a special relationship and understanding of the client that no one else could offer. The client could never solve his or her own problems without the therapist. And, finally, the therapist seems to derive emotional sustenance from dependent relationships and will nurture dependence, sometimes indefinitely, but will not tolerate a critical client or colleague. Some therapists of this type will actually meet the DSM-IV criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
The Narcissist Symptoms List:
- Excessive number of capital letters listed after name
- Posture: sits back in chair with legs crossed, looks down nose.
- Speech: arrogant and polysyllabic with gratuitous use of opaque technical jargin.
- Actively or inactively endorses criticism of other therapists, may even take part.
- Deeply committed to his or her own opinions even in the face of contrary evidence. This may be most apparent in the process of diagnosing and post diagnosis education.
- Fails to stop or dismiss flattery.
- Appears to thrive on the positive transference, adoration and emotional dependence of clients.
- Promotes the idea the he has a special relationship/rapport with client or that no one truly understands the client at the same level that he does (yes, that’s an old pimp trick).
- Low esteem or tolerance for colleagues. May refuse to consult or collaborate.
- Becomes irritable or even hostile in the face of criticism. May even terminate services to clients who fail to reinforce the therapist’s ego.
- Clients and colleagues are obsequious and sing the therapists’ praises.